Editor’s Note: Each week we cross-post an excerpt from Katrina vanden Heuvel’s column at the WashingtonPost.com. Read the full text of Katrina’s column here.

While the election is dominated by talk of the economy and Mitt Romney’s latest foreign policy blunder, don’t lose sight of one important fact: Perhaps nothing will have a bigger impact on the United States’ future than the Supreme Court. And with four justices above the age of 70, the next president of the United States could have enormous power to shape the court for generations to come. Age is not, as Playboy mogul Hugh Hefner has suggested, just a number.

In a government paralyzed by partisan gridlock on the most important matters of the day, the Supreme Court has become what Bill Moyers calls “The Decider.” A majority of the justices has taken a far right turn in its decisions.

This extremism has a history. In 1971, Lewis Powell, then a corporate lawyer and soon to be a Supreme Court justice, wrote a memo at the request of the US Chamber of Commerce, urging it to push for an activist, pro-business court that would rubber-stamp its agenda. Powell’s memo laid the groundwork for a right-wing rise in all areas of public life, including law firms, think tanks, campus organizations and media outlets. The 1987 failed Supreme Court nomination of right-wing ideologue Robert Bork was, in hindsight, only a setback in the movement to push the court toward the right. Extremists including Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito would eventually be confirmed.

Editor’s Note: Each week we cross-post an excerpt from Katrina vanden Heuvel’s column at the WashingtonPost.com. Read the full text of Katrina’s column here.